In the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, Grant plays an advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies. As a result, Grant finds himself trying to escape one attempt on his life after another—all because of a case of mistaken identity. I doubt that anyone would find himself in a situation so complicated and convoluted as Grant’s character; however, the righteous can find themselves treated as enemies without having done anything whatsoever to deserve it. David had served King Saul admirably, bringing him great victories for Israel and honoring him in the process. Unfortunately, Saul’s jealousy of David’s exploits led the king to become openly hostile toward David, though David had done absolutely nothing wrong. Reflecting on an instance where he found himself on the run and hiding from Saul’s men, David wrote, “They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine. Awake to help me, and behold!” (Psa. 59:4). David felt the pressure, the fear, and the sadness that came with this situation, but he trusted God through it all. And that must be our approach to any similar circumstance as well.
It can be difficult to understand why people would spew hatred toward someone who has never wronged them, yet Jesus suffered from this throughout His ministry, even dying as a direct result of this attitude. In fact, sometimes people simply find the existence of righteousness—and even peace and happiness—a threat because they do not enjoy them themselves. As a result, they attempt to even the score—not by seeking peace and happiness, but by trying to ruin the lives of others. This is the nature of evil. It is destructive and vindictive. And the people who fall into these patterns are victims of Satan’s devices even as they make the righteous their enemies. Even in the church, Christians who find their faults exposed often lash out to destroy those who have figured them out. For the guilty Christian, their motive is a sad type of self-preservation—seeking to preserve the myth of their godliness and their “territory,” much like the chief priests and scribes in the time of Jesus. A Christian caught in such circumstances will feel isolated, betrayed, and confused, just trying to grasp what the motives could be of the hatred, lies, and contempt expressed by their own brethren. It is a mournful plight, to be sure, and yet it has occurred far too frequently.
Whether at school, at work, at home, or in the church, it is possible to find yourself spiritually “on the run,” trying to defend yourself against a flurry of attacks that you do not deserve and probably do not even understand. It can be easy to allow your attackers to become your enemies, to induce you into returning the hate and losing sight of the righteousness that indirectly played a role in your situation. But we must rise above this, as David did and as Jesus did, and accept that being reviled does not justify reviling in return. Instead, we should heed the inspired words of Peter, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:15-16).